“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, February 10, 2017

Trump has been uncanny, the pundits have underestimated him - He did what they said was impossible - He might be doing it again.

Donald Trump: the method behind the madness. How the unorthodox US president may be one step ahead of his critics

Less than a month into the Trump administration Washington is aswirl. Journalists and old political operators alike are astonished at what they’ve seen. The president is still on Twitter, critiquing television programmes and blasting department stores that once sold his daughter’s clothing line.

The first major policy to come from Trump’s desk, a ban on visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US, was hastily implemented, leaving travellers stranded in transit, and is now under review by the federal courts. Trump has been casual, even brusque, with foreign leaders. Leaks abound, and there are rumors that the president’s advisers are losing faith in him.
Everything suggests chaos. But suggestions and appearances are not always reliable where Donald Trump is concerned. Last year, the same pundits who now are sure the White House is in crisis were equally certain that Donald Trump could never, ever win the election.
Trump’s first moves as president have been more systematic than they might appear
Two years ago, few believed he would even become the Republican Party’s candidate. All the while, from candidate to president, Trump has behaved in an outrageously unorthodox fashion. But there was method in what seemed like madness on the campaign trail, and now President Trump may once again be miles ahead of the media’s seers. The possibility is at least worth examining.

To begin with, Trump has picked as his closest White House aides two individuals with very clear ideas of what the administration should be doing and how it can be done. Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, was formerly chairman of the Republican National Committee.

He is a seasoned political insider who knows his party’s traditional policies better than anyone. He represents conservative orthodoxy within the administration, with an emphasis on low taxes and slashing the federal bureaucracy.

Steve Bannon, on the other hand, the president’s chief strategist, represents the right-wing populism that lifted Trump to victory.

If Priebus, a lawyer, has a background typical for a political operator, Bannon has unusual origins that demonstrate entrepreneurial vision – as an investment banker, documentarian, and the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a media company he turned into a powerhouse.

Trump’s first moves as president have been more systematic than they might appear: he has faithfully implemented policies, or at least set down markers, that advance both the orthodox conservative Republican programme and the agenda of the new nationalist spirit on the right.

The latter has attracted much more attention – indeed, so much so that Trump’s achievements in terms of free markets and deregulation have been widely overlooked by friend and foe alike.

The misreported “Muslim ban” practically monopolised the US media’s attention for a week. In fact, the 90-day moratorium on most visitors applies only to six countries with active Islamist insurgencies – Syria, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen – and one country, Iran, with a revolutionary Islamist government.
While the ban has been met with protests in the street, polls indicate that Trump’s own voters very much support what he’s done
The policy is understood to be Bannon’s, and it has a clear logic: to pause immigration from those few countries while the vetting procedures put in place by earlier presidents are carefully re-examined. To say that the procedures already in place must be sound because Presidents Obama and George W. Bush before him knew what they were doing is to assume the very thing that Trump and Bannon, not to mention Trump’s voters, reject.

They believe, with reason, that neither the Bush approach to Islamic radicalism nor Obama’s has worked, and so every facet of relevant policy, from foreign relations to immigration, must be looked at anew.

That reasoning might be right or wrong, but it is far from irrational. It is also far from impolitic: while the ban has been met with protests in the street, polls indicate that Trump’s own voters very much support what he’s done. As objectionable as the press might see his policies, they are exactly the one that voters put Trump into office to carry out.

That is doubly true where traditional conservative policies are concerned. For many Republican voters, the single most important question of last year’s campaign was who would appoint the next Supreme Court justice.

Trump has selected an appointee, Neil Gorsuch, who appears to be everything conservatives could have hoped for: a judge who will apply a strict reading to the Constitution and prevent judicial or regulatory overreach. Trump has taken direct steps of his own to curb excessive regulation as well, for example with an executive order to require that at least two existing bureaucratic rules be repealed for every new rule imposed.

Is the order more symbolic than substantial? It is taken seriously enough by environmentalists and other opponents that they have sued to stop its implementation. Whatever the outcome of that fight, the signal that Trump is sending is clear – the regulatory state is in his crosshairs. Other Trump executive orders have begun the process of dismantling Obamacare and have put oil pipelines derailed by Obama back on track.

Republican orthodoxy may also be well-served by Trump’s proposed fiscal policy – depending on what one means by Republican orthodoxy. The party likes to present itself as favoring both lower taxes and less government spending. In practice, Republicans like George W. Bush have only increased spending.
Trade is one area where Trump’s populism and conservatism come together in surprising ways
Trump has been quite frank about his intentions: he favors deep tax cuts as well as higher spending for infrastructure and defense. This poses the risk of exacerbating budget deficits, unless the growth fostered by tax cuts and regulatory reform outstrips the cost of more spending with less revenue. This gamble, however, is not of character for Republican presidents. Even Ronald Reagan prioritised economic growth over balanced budgets.

Trade is one area where Trump’s populism and conservatism come together in surprising ways. While the president has scrapped the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact with most of Asia (minus China), and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal with Europe looks similarly doomed, new bilateral trade agreements may be in the offing, not least with the UK.

It must be borne in mind that multilateral “free trade” agreements in recent years have really been as much about environmental, labor, and other regulations as about trade. Free-market conservatism, no less than economic nationalism, provides good reason to look askance at many of these agreements.

It’s in the broader realm of international relations, however, that Trump’s method, if he has one, appears most unfathomable. Even before he was sworn in as president, Trump shocked diplomats by taking a call with the president of Taiwan.

He suggested to Prime Minister May that she should appoint Nigel Farage as ambassador to the US – a job that is not vacant and is not filled by a foreign leader’s choice in any event. As president, Trump is said to have hung up on the prime minister of Australia mid-call – at least if leaks are to be believed – and may have mused or joked to the president of Mexico about sending US troops into his country.

Asked in a television interview how he could respect the Russian president when “Putin’s a killer,” Trump replied, “We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think – our country’s so innocent?”

Surely none of this could be deliberate, could it? The president must be talking off the top of his head. Yet here too, there is a certain consistency between how Trump has conducted himself and how he has said a president should conduct foreign affairs.

During the campaign he made a point of saying that a president should be unpredictable, and his negotiating strategy throughout his career in real estate seems to fit the pattern. That is not to say that every informal remark of Trump’s is part of a deliberate strategy, but he does seem to believe that his way of doing business will work on the international stage as well.

Setting aside the way he speaks to, and about, other leaders, Trump’s foreign policy appears coherent enough, if not without its risks. He and his advisors envision a world of more assertive nation-states, one in which America’s allies in Europe and Asia invest more in their own defense and rely less on the United States.

He finds Russia less threatening than Islamist radicalism, both to the US and to the larger Western world. After two decades of idealism in US foreign policy, of attempts to spread liberalism and democracy by force or by sermons, Trump represents a return to power politics. He is the first president to come after the End of History.

So far Trump has been more shocking in word than in deed. Most of his executive orders promote goals that American conservatives have pursued for decades. But the urgency he places on the nation-state is new, and that novelty makes his immigration and foreign policies seem more abrupt and spontaneous than they may in fact be.

To reorient the way the most powerful of nations thinks of itself is a task that could hardly be undertaken without provoking amazement and horror. Yet restoring the principle of the nation-state is less a revolution than the undoing of one: a return to the frank realities of history after decades spent dreaming of universal democracy.

Then again, taking the right measure of Trump has never been easy. His political success has been so uncanny it may well encourage flights of fancy about just how brilliantly he can pull off his new task. Yet the pundits, to a one, underestimated him last year. He did what they said was impossible. That fact alone is reason enough to consider that he might be doing it again.

Daniel McCarthy is editor at large of  The American Conservative.


  1. That fox, I am certain the other Ph.D. Animal Lover here, Doug, will agree, is a truly beautiful animal.

    And reminds me of Quirk at his uncanny best....

    1. (never judge Quirk by his rhetoric, but only by his actions behind the scenes)

    2. ((he has yet to accept a Syrian refugee into his home, for instance))

  2. Snother example of Duece's mans brilliance:

    "Trump cedes new ground to Beijing with about-face on ‘one China’
    Nathan VanderKlippe

    BEIJING — The Globe and Mail

    a single phone call, Donald Trump staged a spectacular comedown from his boldest threat against China, agreeing to Beijing’s demand that he acknowledge Taiwan as part of a single China.
    It took Mr. Trump less than three weeks as President to abandon his warning that no issue was too delicate to revisit – not even the status of Taiwan – in his quest to extract gains from a rising Chinese superpower, one he has called an enemy responsible for stealing U.S. jobs and bilking its people of hundreds of billions of dollars through currency manipulation.
    Now, the U.S. President has become the subject of international ridicule after a phone call Friday with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. In it, Mr. Trump agreed to respect the one-China policy. Critics called it a humiliating about-face for a U.S. leader who routinely pillories those he calls “losers.”


  3. "Critics". Isn't that everyone at the Globe and Mail?

  4. Hey Rat, are you participating in the Hashknife?

  5. .

    Quirk Publications, LLC

    Quirk International (Camden, NJ, USA)

    Fly on the Wall

    ’Whispers from the West Wing…’

    [Morning Edition]

    Candy Kane

    February 10, 2017

    Hello, darlings

    Word has it that the Tangerine Don (TD) continues to be apoplectic and red in anger over the decision by the 9th Circuit to allow the hold on his immigration ban to stand. His team is scrambling to develop some response to the decision. Meanwhile, while refugee groups welcome the decision, Trump tweets to the universe a vow to “…see you in court.”

    In an interview yesterday, press secretary Sean Spicer in a dark blue Brioni knock-off and matching sky blue Trump signature collection tie, told reporters, "Tonight was just a procedural ruling on the temporary restraining order. We look forward to a full hearing on the merits of this case, and we feel very confident that we're going to prevail…" We are looking at all options.

    Meanwhile, Trump supporters at one of the more influential blogs in the country are in couched language calling for a popular revolution against the judiciary, some even vowing to go to Krakow to gather support and cool down a bit.

    One of my little flies tells me that this morning that same blog posted an article from the Telegraph supportive of Trump and carrying a picture of a red fox clearly implying that Mr. Trump is a wily and cunning character not to be trifled with. Critics on the other hand who have seen the picture are snickering that it bears a strong resemblance to 'Wily Coyote' just before he is hit by the safe.



    1. {...}

      Page 2

      From our General Interest page…

      We are getting word that celebrity faux farmer, Bob, who recently gained national fame for his purchase of the famous Harambe Cheeto snack off of eBay for a whopping for $99,900 [a new record for personage shaped snacks], reported death threats from the previous owner of the Cheeto snack, one Vlad ‘Pelmeni” Arconovic, purported by some to be the enforcer for a Russian crime family centered in New Jersey and operating along the East Coast.

      According to our sources, a day after purchasing the now famous Harambe Cheeto, Mr. Bob placed an urgent call to the Idaho State Grange in Coeur D’ Alene, ID seeking an unsecured loan in the amount of $99,877.50. Upon having his loan request denied, Mr. Bob then called the local FBI office, told them he had received death threats from one Sal ‘Lips’ Pontucci of the Pontucci Rat Eradication and Disposal Company which public records indicate is based out of Newark, NJ. Mr. Bob then requested to be put on a witness protection program. When asked what he was witness to, Mr. Bob is quoted as saying, “Anything you want”. That request was also denied, and Mr. Bob was last seen disappearing into the night heading for US 90 and points north and west.

      The Cincinnati Enquirer has authorized this page to engage the services of the Quirk Smith Investigative Services and Skip-Trace Company to investigate this matter further and to try to locate Mr. Bob. We will keep you advised as this story continues to develop.

      A personal plea to Mr. Bob: Mr. Bob, if you are out there and have access to a phone, please, please, please, call the Cincinnati Enquirer main line and ask to be connected to the Fly on the Wall page. Once you are patched through, ask to speak to Chin Chin.

      [Note: There have been some complaints that in the original story the name and location of the eBay purchaser was released by the Enquirer even though he had requested anonymity. I disavow any responsibility for that action and refuse to be held fiscally responsible. The original story regarding the Harambe Cheeto purchase was written by C.C. Kane, investigative reporter on our news staff. It was a news item and in no way connected to the Fly on the Wall page.

      All question regarding that issue should be addressed to C.C. Kane who is currently out of the country on extended leave.]


    2. .


      Page 3

      Now, I’d like to follow up on another story we started yesterday regarding the rumors that press secretary Sean Spicer, might be on the outs with his boss, TD. As our regular readers will likely recall, Sean was on the outs with Mr. Trump first, for wearing ill-fitting suits that didn’t conform to the Trump image.

      I am happy to say, that since his ‘dressing down’ for dressing down Sean has performed a veritable 180 and for the last couple of days has appeared sartorially spectacular, dressed to the nines in Trump style business suits and tie. And one of my ‘little flies on the wall’ buzzes in my ear that Sean has now even engaged the services of Julio Squato famed tie selector from the high-end, fancy smantzy tie firm, Pansexual Mercado. Julio, who dentifies as ‘none of the above’, is now on contract to help Sean select the perfect tie for every suit he wears. Way to go Sean.

      Sean’s second strike consisted of not only being spoofed on SNL, but worse, of being spoofed by ‘female’ comedian Melissa McCarty, something that does not fit with Trump’s hard won, John Wayne, tough guy image. This would be a tough one to overcome but another of my ‘flies’ tells me of something that may help Sean out by making Trump forget about Melissa McCarthy altogether.

      Word is that producer Lorne Michaels of SNL is so happy with the reception McCarthy’s impersonation of Spicer received he is seriously considering having another women impersonate Steve Bannon on a future show, a woman sure to cause Trump to explode or at least blow a gasket, Rosie O’Donnell. Yes, you heard it right and you heard it here first, Rosie O’Donnell.

      When questioned about the matter, O’Donnell said, ‘Let’s do it. I’m ready.’


      As a final note, we are hearing (buzz…buzz) that the Trump Dress Code for Females has been expanded somewhat with notifications being posted around the White House that ‘suggest’…


      If it’s Monday, wear the Blue underwear marked ‘Monday’

      If it’s Tuesday, wear the Yellow underwear marked ‘Tuesday’

      And so forth…

      Well, that’s all we have time for right now kiddies.


      We'll talk again soon.



    3. "Critics on the other hand who have seen the picture are snickering that it bears a strong resemblance to 'Wily Coyote' just before he is hit by the safe"


    4. Mr. Bob did indeed get through to Fly on the Arse and did ask to speak to Chin Chin.

      He was told, however, that Chin Chin was not available, as she was camped outside of Missoula, Montana with some young Lady named Maria, and a young handsome Blackfoot warrior called Long Dong Silver Creek.

      Mr. Bob is reportedly now en route to Missoula, Montana with skis, liquor and winter fly rod in hand to join this group in mutual festivities.

    5. Reporters at the camp cite Maria has saying, in regard to Long Dong Silver Creek:

      Finally ! A man to match my mountains !! Ah !!!

      News media are debating the inner meaning of this cryptic saying.

  6. White House hints at NEW travel ban order to dodge court battle - as Trump blasts 'disgraceful' ruling upholding freeze on his current one

    A federal appeals court in San Francisco released its ruling tonight on President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban - saying it would not reinstate it
    Trump responded by taking to Twitter and writing in all caps: 'SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!' 

    He also called the ruling 'disgraceful' 

    The president also told reporters in the West Wing Thursday night that the ruling was a 'political decision'

    Now the White House is also saying that rewriting the order isn't 'off the table'  
    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided it would not block a lower-court ruling that suspended the ban 

    Last week, a Seattle-based judge issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban after Washington state and Minnesota sued the U.S. government 

    Hillary Clinton chimed in with a tweet trolling the president, simply writing '3-0' 

    By Geoff Earle, Deputy U.s. Political Editor For and Nikki Schwab, U.s. Political Reporter For
    Published: 16:54 GMT, 10 February 2017 | Updated: 18:18 GMT, 10 February 2017

    The White House is floating a new way to counter a stunning appeals court ruling that set back President Trump's immigration order – redrafting the order in a way that could take effect immediately and be more resistant to legal challenge.

    President Trump signaled an unmistakable instinct to fight for his original order Thursday night when bluntly told opponents: 'See you in court!' after criticizing judges who stood in his path.
    But now, the White House is also laying out an alternative path. Asked if the president was considering signing a new executive order on immigration, a White House official told CNN, '"Nothing's off the table." 

    CNN's Jim Acosta added on air Friday morning, 'They may go back and revise this executive order that that is a possibility that no options are being essentially taken off the table at this point.' 

    President Donald Trump has used Twitter over the last few days to try and encourage the three judge panel to rule in his way. Now, the White House is signaling that redrafting the order isn't 'off the table'

    By redrafting the order, the White House could conceivably try to correct several elements of the order that have drawn scrutiny in court. 

    NBC reported Friday that White House attorneys were already engaged in the effort. Options include continuing the court fight that Trump has vowed or signing a new order 'very soon.' 

    Read more:
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook


    Some Miles Outside Missoula, Montana: Silver Crick Encampment

    In addition to many elk and bear hunters joining the fun and festivities, a strange straggler from Detroit, Michigan wandered into the camp, saying he was here to 'rescue his two girl friends'.

    The only Ladies at the camp, one Chin Chin and one Maria, who seemed to have had and to be having a great time, both denied knowing the man.

    This odd fellow, who called himself Quirk, began to insist the two Ladies come with me and, they refusing, and he insisting, Quirk was ushered out of camp by the hunters.

    From the edge of camp Quirk could be heard shouting:


    This declaration was met by hoots of laughter, and vows to "skin the sucker" if he should return.

    Press is awaiting further developments.

    1. Additionally, one brave of the Blackfoot Tribe, answering to Long Dong Silver Creek in the Tribe, and called simply BIG SILVER by the Palefaces, took a vow to scalp Quirk if he should return.

  8. Sounding as if Trump is going to issue a new improved executive order concerning refugees and others entering the country next week.

  9. Meanwhile, down in that Paradise of AshLand, Venezuela -

    Venezuelans eating cats, dogs, donkeys, horses and even pink flamingos to survive


    It’s illegal to hunt pink flamingos in Venezuela but some people on the “Maduro diet” have no choice but to resort to eating the colorful birds, as well as more pedestrian animals like cats and dogs, in order to survive. From the Miami Herald:

    Biology student Luis Sibira stumbled across the first set of gory remains last November: eight pink flamingos, their breasts and torsos sliced out, leaving their heads, spindly legs and vivid feathers scattered across the marshy ground at Las Peonias Lagoon in western Venezuela…

    But this isn’t simple poaching, he said. Sibira and other investigators from Zulia University, a public university in Maracaibo, are convinced that the protected birds have become the latest victims of Venezuela’s growing hunger crisis. People have become so desperate, he said, that they are butchering and eating flamingos.

    There are other signs that food shortages have led to the slaughtering of animals not generally considered meat: giant anteaters, for one…

    In the city’s dump, more evidence of hunger-driven desperation: dismembered dogs, cats, donkeys, horses and pigeons have been found since last year, all skinned or plucked, with signs of having been eaten, according to the city’s garbage teams.

    The head of Venezuela’s Scientific Studies Institute tells the Miami Times no Venezuelans have ever made pink flamingos a part of their diet, going all the way back to the Spanish Conquest. This is desperation caused by the rampant inflation and chronic shortages that have been a problem in Venezuela for the past two years.

    In a story published today, Reuters compares the situation to “the waning days of the Soviet Union.” Venezuela borrowed $50 billion from China and another $5 billion from Russia with the promise of repayment in the form of cheap oil, but the nation is now falling behind on those deliveries:

    The total worth of the late cargoes to state-run Chinese and Russian firms is about $750 million, according to a Reuters analysis of the PDVSA documents.

    At the end of January, PDVSA was late on nearly 10 million barrels of refined products that the company owes the firms – with shipments delayed by as much as 10 months, according to the documents. It also failed to make timely deliveries of another 3.2 million barrels of crude shipments to China’s state-run China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

    The article goes on to say that last year’s oil production was the lowest in 23 years, despite plans by the state-run company to increase exports to China. So far, neither Russia nor China are saying anything publicly about the delays.

    The wheels continue to come off this disaster of a socialist state. Here’s hoping the collapse of President Maduro’s government happens before too many more people feel forced to hunt pink flamingos to survive.

  10. Apeirophobia